For twenty years, Mikala Jacobson had it all: loyal friends, a precious little girl, and a man who adores her. Then double tragedy strikes and her perfect world shatters.
Good friends, Rena and Jake are instantly by her side, protecting her from her husband David’s sordid secret life and his final drunken confession.
With their help, Mikala finds strength to rebuild and redefine her life. As her spirit and heart heal, she not only finds closure, but the beauty of a new love built upon an old friendship.
|Publisher:||The Wild Rose Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.69(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Daisies in February
"Catch me, Mama!" Molly called over her shoulder as she ran across the newly cut grass, filling the air with her sweet, little-girl giggles.
Her auburn curls bounced in a frenzy around her face, cascading down her elfin body in waves, catching the sun and the eye of every person enjoying the warm spring day at Lighthouse Point Park. Mikala followed her blue-eyed nymph, unable to stifle her own laughter and the tug to her heart strings.
The park was crowded, New Havenites and their animals coming out from their winter hibernation to enjoy the first warm day of spring. But Mikala wasn't concerned. Molly was impossible to miss — dressed in jeans, an oversized hot-pink and purple sweatshirt, and matching high- tops — as she raced across the lawn on her tiny but powerful legs chasing butterflies.
Molly skidded to a stop, spun her head in Mikala's direction, and flashed her crystal-blue eyes. A wide grin spread over her freckled face. "Too slow, Mama," she announced in a sing-song voice. "Here I come." She narrowed her eyes and launched herself at Mikala. "Catch me!"
Mikala had seconds to prepare. She'd played this game dozens of times before with Molly. She was familiar with the impact the ball of mischievous energy hurtling toward her would make on her body and heart.
Molly didn't waver from her path. With complete abandonment, she threw herself into her mother's arms. Often, Molly jumped from her bed or from the side of a pool right into the deep end and into Mikala's arms. She would let herself go, trusting Mikala wouldn't let her down and would catch her and keep her safe.
Mikala had reassured Molly, time and time again, mamas had a special job. To catch and to hold, and to love and to protect––that's why God made mamas. She laughed and dropped to her knees. She opened her arms wide, preparing to be overcome, inside and out, by goodness and light. Instead of the soft spring grass she'd been dreaming of, Mikala's knees and ungloved palms crunched through the frozen landscape, sinking into the frigid ice-and-snow combination covering the cemetery and Molly's grave.
Tears filled Mikala's eyes and streamed down her face. Her palms and knees were lacerated, stung, and burned. Her arms, shoulders, legs, and back throbbed from the impact. The pain shooting through her limbs and torso was nothing compared to the agony ripping through Mikala as she once again faced the horror her baby girl no longer lived, no longer breathed, smiled, or laughed. Rather, she lay buried in this godforsaken place, beneath this frozen tundra, in the dark, and all alone ... all alone.
She scanned her surroundings, shivering as she swiped at the locks of curls whipping across her face. The children's cemetery was deserted, as it usually was on her daily visits. The trees were barren, naked, and cold, and snow blanketed the ground, covering the souls tucked beneath. Rarely did she see another sobbing and broken figure hovering over a tiny headstone of a baby stolen too early from the earth. When she did, her heart ached, and her grief compounded.
Mikala raised her gaze to the heavens and raged. "Why? Why? Why?" With every word, she slammed her palms into the frozen earth. "Why did you have to steal my child? Why didn't you just take me? Why did you give her to me only to reclaim her a few short years later? She was only a baby. She hadn't lived a full life yet." Sobbing, Mikala doubled over, her body wracked with pain. "Please, just take me to be with her. I can't do this anymore on my own. I don't want to. Please have mercy."
She could beg all she wanted, but no one listened. Six months ago, her little butterfly flew to heaven. Never again would Mikala wake up to the melody of her sweet giggles or revel in the warmth of her tiny body as it settled against her own. Mikala couldn't caress Molly's pudgy cheeks, tickle behind her ears, or inhale her fresh little-girl scent after a bath. She couldn't tangle her fingers through her wild mane of curls or get lost in those bottomless blue eyes that stopped most people in their tracks with their unusual color and their ability to see right through them.
Worst of all, Mikala didn't know who she was. No longer was she a mother. She would never hear the word Mama coming from her daughter's bow-shaped lips, giving meaning and worth to her life. Without her child, and without that title, Mikala was no one––no one special.
Mikala had lied to Molly. She didn't catch her, hold her, or protect her like she'd promised on the day she was born. She could have and should have. But Mikala hadn't listened to her internal alarm bell — the one that came as an added bonus the day she learned she was pregnant with Molly, and the one that warned when her precious girl was in trouble. Instead, she'd listened to all the people around her who loved her and Molly, but they had no clue what being a mother was.
"Wake up, wake up, wake up," Molly had chanted as she bounced up and down on Mikala's bed early one Saturday morning in mid-August. "It's here. It's today. Daddy says to get you up and get me dressed." She dropped to her knees and crawled over Mikala, positioning her small body on top of her mother. Molly placed her head on Mikala's breast as her itsy- bitsy fingers tiptoed their way to Mikala's armpits and dug in.
Mikala smiled and grabbed Molly's hands in one of hers as her other arm banded around the giggling girl and pulled her even closer. She breathed in Molly.
Molly wiggled. "Mama, please get up. It's Daddy-and-me day."
No sooner had the words left Molly's mouth when a weird knot lodged in the pit of Mikala's stomach, accompanied by a finger of apprehension that walked its way up her spine. She shivered and sat up.
As Mikala dressed Molly and made pancakes for breakfast while David got ready, the niggling sense of foreboding that made its debut in her bed returned for a repeat performance. This time the warning was loud and obnoxious. Her fears were unwarranted. Molly was spending the day with David, shopping for kindergarten school supplies. Afterward, they were having lunch with his parents and would be home by dinner. The plan was simple, safe, and worry-free. So, what was the problem?
By the time David came down for breakfast, Mikala paced.
As usual, David was engrossed in his email. His fingers flew across the screen of his smartphone as he sat at the breakfast bar next to Molly and began eating without glancing up.
Molly happily hummed a Disney tune, as she swung her legs and licked pancake syrup off her fingers.
Mikala studied her family and shook her head. At thirty-nine, she had everything she ever wanted––a husband who'd loved her since the day they met when they were just nineteen, and a sweet baby girl, their miracle, God had finally graced them with. Life was good. Everyone was safe, happy, and healthy. She had no reason for the anxiety that gained cyclone strength and speed in her belly and chest. Still, she knew better than to blow off her internal alarm. "You know what, guys. I've changed my mind. I don't want to miss out on all the fun. I think I'll go with you instead of to the spa with Rena."
Both Molly's and David's heads popped up.
"Mama, no," Molly whined. "Today is Molly-and-Daddy day. Only us." She turned her gaze to her father. "You promised, Daddy."
David quirked an eyebrow, his gaze searching Mikala's. "It's okay, Princess. Mama can come. We'll have fun together."
Molly's eyes welled with tears, and her bottom lip quivered. "Daddy, no. It's Daddy-and-me day. Only you and only me." She turned her face to Mikala and whispered, "I'll watch him so he doesn't get lost, and I'll stay close. Please, Mama, please."
Mikala got lost in her daughter's beseeching eyes, and her heart melted. Even at five and a half, Molly had her father mastered and her mother wrapped around her finger. She was an intelligent child who missed nothing. Mikala and David argued about his unhealthy cell-phone obsession, a direct result of an overly demanding job as a defense attorney. Lately when he went out with them, if they didn't watch him, he walked into objects and people. Once, they even lost him in the grocery store. But he was a great dad, and when he had Molly on his own, his gaze didn't stray.
"Easy there, Princess. No tears for Daddy-and-Molly day." David smiled, picked up Molly, and put her on his lap. "It'll be okay, sweetheart. Go to the spa. Have fun with Rena. Molly will keep a good eye on me, won't you, baby?"
"Yippy!" Molly threw her arms around her father's neck and gave him a syrupy kiss. "I'll watch you, Daddy. You won't get lost. I promise."
Outnumbered, and against her better judgment, Mikala gave in. She didn't want to be one of those overprotective mothers, and generally she wasn't. She wished she understood what she was feeling. Taking a deep breath, she let it out. She'd smiled and nodded. "Okay, Butterfly, but don't go flitting away anywhere, especially if he is looking at his phone."
Mikala recalled every detail of her daughter's face from that morning — from her dimpled chin to her toothy grin. The pain of losing her hadn't dulled in the slightest over the last six months. She shook her head and straightened from her crouched position over Molly's grave. With the back of her hand, she wiped her face and nose as a cold wind blew.
Mikala searched in her coat pocket for a tissue, and then blew her nose. Her palms were a mess, and her fingers were stiff and painfully cold, but she didn't care. She cleared the snow from the butterfly sculpture balanced atop Molly's headstone, a magnificent piece of art Jake commissioned. Using her index finger, she traced Molly's name, date of birth, and date of death on the headstone. How fast the years had flown.
Closing her eyes, Mikala slowly replayed all the significant days with Molly. The day the doctor confirmed she was pregnant and she'd run home to tell David their little miracle was on the way. He crushed her against him and wept. The day Molly's heartbeat graced her ears for the first time and became her favorite symphony, followed by the first time Molly stretched deep inside her womb––a fluttering of a butterfly's wings. The day she pushed Molly into the world, heard her cry, and made her promises she hadn't kept. Then came the first time Mikala cradled Molly in her arms, and everything in her world clicked into place. Molly's first smile, giggle, word, step ... her first everything.
Again, Mikala lost control as a fresh wave of anguish, followed by guilt and self-recrimination hit. She'd known without a shadow of a doubt, something terrible would happen that day, and she hadn't enjoyed the spa with Rena. Halfway through the day, she insisted on going home. When she couldn't reach David by three p.m., and his parents said he didn't arrive at their house, Mikala's heart skipped a beat. For just a few minutes, her brain stopped processing information, her vision blurred, and a roar filled her ears.
Wandering from room to room, she memorized every detail of the life she and David built––the family photos lining the mantel, the hand-carved jewelry box David bought her on their honeymoon in Salzburg, and Molly's tea set arranged on the coffee table for evening tea. A cold, hollow ache took residence in her belly where the knot of dread made its appearance that morning. The sensation expanded with alarming speed, dug in deep, and planted roots. Like an unwanted guest appearing without warning and bringing too many bags for just a brief visit, sorrow moved in, shifted, and stretched then got comfortable for the long haul.
When the house line rang, Mikala froze, and her gaze darted to the cordless on the couch. Her breath stuttered. Her heart seized. Clarity forced its way past the tentacles of sheer terror strangling, dominating, and paralyzing her. She shook her head and took a step forward, only to be hit by a wave of dizziness and nausea so tremendous, she doubled over wrapping her arms around her womb. Mikala's entire being, inside and out, shook as her heart tumbled about in her chest without a set time, tempo, or rhythm. Her breaths grew shallow and choppy, and her legs turned to rubber. The cord tethering Molly to her and this world had been severed.
The telephone rang four times before Mikala forced her body to cooperate. God, she hadn't wanted to answer. She hadn't wanted to know. She'd even considered not answering, protecting herself and her beautiful family from the annihilation of their world.
People said she was strong––the strongest woman they knew. They said in time she would heal. She would build another life. And God didn't give you more than you could handle. People were idiots. They had no idea how in her head she raged. She howled, and shrieked, and wailed ... and begged, and pleaded for mercy. All day. All night. Every day. Every night.
Mikala wiped her eyes again and searched the heavens. Thick, gray clouds crowded the sky, heralding an impending storm. She took deep breaths, exhaling slowly as she prepared for the task that brought her here. It had to be done. Using her numb hands, Mikala brushed the rest of the snow off her daughter's headstone the best she could. She gathered the yellow daisies she'd dropped in the snow. They'd scattered over the grave and around a bouquet of white daisies she was certain Jake brought earlier.
Daisies had been Molly's favorite flower. Although finding daisies anywhere in Connecticut in February was impossible, Mikala was a good customer at Dixie's Flower Shop, and apparently, Jake was as well. Dixie made the impossible possible for this special day.
Molly had loved to color and paint, and every picture she created contained daisies and butterflies. "Daisies are happy all the time. That's why butterflies like them so much," Molly had explained, when Mikala questioned the smiley face Molly always drew in the center of each daisy.
Smiling, Mikala stopped gathering the flowers. They were beautiful, perfect as they were, blanketing her baby with bright, happy colors. She placed the few stems she'd collected at the base of the headstone. "Here you go, baby girl." Mikala traced the petals of one of the daisies with the tip of her finger. "Your favorite. So pretty and bright, my butterfly. Just for you on your special day, my sweet. Happy sixth birthday. Your mama loves you, remembers you, and can barely breathe without you."
Mikala closed her eyes and tilted up her head, digging deep for the strength she needed to utter the next words. For the briefest of moments, the sun peeked out from the clouds and kissed one of her cheeks as the wind whipped up and caressed the other. Her eyes flew open, and she gasped. Cupping her cheeks with her frozen hands, Mikala searched the heavens for the hole that was sure to be there — a conduit between the angels and those they left behind. Seeing only the clouds gather once more and the sun fade as quickly as it made its appearance, Mikala's tears started again. She brushed them away and cleared her throat. The time had come to sing Molly the song every child loves to hear on their birthday.
"Happy birthday, dear Molly. Happy birthday to you."CHAPTER 2
All the King's Horses
Jake Santiago Cardona maneuvered Red through the narrow iron gates of the Gentle Winds Cemetery. He let the old truck find its way to the infant and children's section where he'd been countless times to visit his butterfly. His truck didn't need assistance. It knew its way by heart––every hill and turn and even the exact place he parked near the majestic oak tree.
Fuck, he hated this grim place––this section in particular. Jake slammed a hand against the steering wheel. So many tiny graves and so many little ones who never had a chance to make a difference in this world. He understood the circle of life and all that shit, but these babies were at the beginning of that circle. Some had lived a few years while others had only lived a few months. Still, some tiny souls had barely taken a breath. Mikala had insisted Molly be with other children, refusing to lay her to rest in the Jacobson family plot where all of David's departed family were buried. She'd been overcome and fragile. No one dared argue.
Molly had belonged to all of them. David and Mikala may have been her biological parents, but they'd shared her with Jake and Rena from the beginning, making them her godparents. The second Jake's gaze had connected with Molly, a few hours after she'd entered the world, and her tiny hand closed over his finger, he was a goner. She wasn't his, and yet she was, in every way that mattered. Molly claimed his heart that very second. She'd swallowed him whole. She'd shackled him to her for life, refused to let go, and made him happier than he ever thought he could be.
Excerpted from "Six Months"
Copyright © 2018 Mona Sedrak.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
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